Learning in Two Contexts:
Field and University Influences on the Role of Telecommunications in Teacher Education

Renee T. Clift, Laurie Thomas, James Levin
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Ann Larson
University of Louisville

Paper presented at AERA '96, New York

Draft copy: Please do not cite without permission from authors.

Three related groups of researchers currently are exploring the impact of telecommunications on the curriculum and practice of teacher education. The first group, those who are interested in technology hardware and software and the applications of technology in teacher education, often attend conferences such as Tel-Ed or NECC (National Educational Computing Conference). They tend to explore questions of type and frequency of network use; nature and impact of network-based projects; and nature and impact of various forms of distance learning.

The second group, those who are interested in social and cultural foundations and the impact of technology on society more generally, attend conferences such as AESA (American Educational Studies Association). They explore questions related to changes in social dynamics associated with new technologies (Thurston, Secaras & Levin, 1996; Harrington, 1992); social, political, and ethical dimensions of the new technologies (Cooley, 1992; Apple, 1991; Harrington, 1991; Noble, 1984); and the relations among new technologies and our emerging conceptions of print, authorship, plagiarism, and similar constructs that are being reformulated as technological innovation rushes on (Burbules & Callister, 1996; Jones & Maloy, 1996; Naisbitt, 1982).

The third group, those who attend ATE (Association of Teacher Education) or AACTE (American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education) and conferences related to content areas such as NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) , NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Math), NCSS National Council of Social Studies) , and NARST (National Association of Research on Science Teaching), are more interested in the process of learning to teaching and the relations among evolving technologies the roles of teacher and learner (OTA, 1995). They tend to ask questions about the roles of technology in bridging isolation among teachers (Merseth, 1991; Bitter & Yohe, 1989); the impact of technology on problem solving , writing, lesson planning, etc. (Murphy & Oughton, 1995; Novak, 1991; Brown, 1992) ; and the practical and educational utility of incorporating technology across the curriculum -- including the teacher education curriculum (Thomas, Clift, & Sugimoto, 1996a; Larson, 1996; Thomas, Clift, Larson, & Levin, 1996b; Willis & Mehlinger, 1996; Michigan State Board of Education, 1990).

We began our research as a team of university-based educators from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) who belonged to the first and the third groups. In this paper we discuss three years of ongoing data collection and analysis in which our concerns broadened from our initial explorations of how technology might be incorporated into the teacher education curriculum to investigations of student teachers' perceptions of the practical and pedagogical implications of Internet-based technology across the curriculum, to our current focus on the interactions among the contexts of teacher education, the partnerships among teacher educators and prospective teachers, and the social and ethical concerns that arise from these conditions. In brief, we will argue that it is impossible to separate issues of use and issues of learning from issues of social impact as technology becomes integrated into teacher education programs.

The Teaching Teleapprenticeships Research Project

The Teaching Teleapprenticeships project was funded in October 1992, with support from the National Science Foundation that will continue through August 1996 (Levin, Waugh, Brown & Clift, 1994). The proposal, written in January 1992, planned to extend the traditional face-to-face apprenticeships currently used in student teaching settings by using electronic networks to provide a more powerful context for learning in preservice and inservice education courses. The proposal overview contained these following main goals:

* We will examine the ways in which Teaching Teleapprenticeships provide a diverse set of real instructional experiences, not just invented examples, for learning science and mathematics content and instructional methods.

* We will study the kinds of skills which students will need to operate effectively as teachers in such interactions on educational networks in the future.

* We will examine the ways in which Teaching Teleapprenticeships can provide additional support for student teachers, as mediators between the post-secondary and the K-12 settings.

* We will investigate the roles for practicing science and mathematics teachers in Teaching Teleapprenticeships, as they integrate the interactions into their teaching and also use to continue their own education.

* We will explore ways to integrate content area experts, both from higher education and from outside the educational system, into this model.

* We will examine the impact of state-of-the-art communication tools and resource servers on the Teaching Teleapprenticeship interactions.

During the first year (October 1992-August 1993), the project worked with a general education biology course taken by many education students as freshmen or sophomores (Boehmer, Levin, & Levin, 1996a), an elementary education science methods course, several secondary methods courses in science, mathematics, and English, ten students from an innovative elementary education student teaching program, and K-12 teachers in an extramural course. At the end of the first year, one of the most striking observations was the powerful positive effects achieved when both a student teacher and his/her cooperating teacher both used the network. Based on this observation, the project loaned computers and conducted a workshop for teachers who planned to work with our student teachers in the following year.

In the second year (September 1993-August 1994), the Project worked with a larger number of students in the Introduction to Biology course (paired up with K-12 classrooms) (Boehmer & Waugh, 1996b), three sections of an elementary education science methods course, all 50 of the students in an elementary education student teaching program, several groups of secondary education student teachers, and teachers from across Illinois enrolled in a network-based extramural course. One theme that emerged during the second year of the Project was the need for partnerships for improving teacher education. This included partnerships with scientists, mathematicians, and engineers, especially the faculty on our campus, many of whom are world class leaders in their fields. During the summer of 1993, the Teaching Teleapprenticeships Project jointly conducted workshops for K-12 teachers with the Education Group at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA).

During the third year (September 1994-August 1995), the Project continued to work with all the groups it worked with during year 2, focusing on integrating technology more effectively into these courses. During this year, it focused on outreach, working with the Illinois State Board of Education to develop a network infrastructure for K-12 schools across the state, and initiating a new organization of the 52 higher education institutions that have teacher education programs to focus on the integration of technology into those programs. A major theme of this year was the valuable ways in which education students can serve as "knowledge creators" for K-12 education (developing curriculum units, integrating information that K-12 teachers would find useful, etc.), in ways integrated into their university education courses.

During the final year (September 1995-August 1996), the Project has been focusing on evaluating and reporting on the positive and negative outcomes from our research. It has worked with an even wider range of faculty and programs at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and at other universities and colleges. It has worked to institutionalize the successful frameworks in ways that will continue beyond the external funding. It has also focused on important ways that education students can serve as mediators between K-12 teachers and students and the rest of the world.

Student survey data

Over the course of this research project, we have conducted numerous surveys of students' self-rated expertise and attitudes toward technology and its applications. These surveys have changed as technologies have changed and especially as the integration of technology into the education courses at UIUC has changed. Such change is not surprising since we used the results of each survey to reshape the nature of the integration of technologies into courses. A comparison of two surveys will be presented here, to give an overview of the nature of change that occurred over the time of this research project.

One of the undergraduate groups that this project worked with in depth was the Year-Long Project (YLP), an innovative elementary education student teaching program at UIUC. A survey was given to the 45 students of the 1994-95 YLP group in December of 1994 (41 surveys were returned) and to the 49 students in the 1995-96 YLP group in December of 1995 (47 surveys were returned). The discussion below will focus on three open-ended questions on both surveys:

* What was the most useful thing that you learned from the Technology Component of the C&I block?

* What was the least useful thing that you learned?

* What suggestions would you make for changes next semester?

What was the most useful thing that you learned?

Here are the responses that were given by at least two students in the surveys:

1994-95 YLP group (41 responses)

21 Learning about Email/Eudora [Eudora was the email program these students used]

10 Learning about the variety of uses/software available

5 Learning to use Powerbooks [pairs of students were loaned Macintosh Powerbook laptops]

4 Gopher

3 Multimedia/CD-ROMs

2 Works/word processing [the Powerbooks had Microsoft Works, an integrated word processing/spreadsheet/database program, on them]

2 Spreadsheets/databases

1995-19 YLP group (47 responses)

13 "range of software"

11 "WWW" or "Netscape"

8 "email"

7 "multimedia" or "CDROM"

5 "scanner"

3 "PowerBooks"

2 "presentation graphics"

Note the shift from email as a focus to a broader range of software, including the World-Wide Web (WWW). This was due, in part, to the rapid development of the Web over the course of the intervening year, but also to efforts by the faculty members involved to integrate the Web and other software into the courses that these students took. It also reflected a broader change in the students, with more of them having already learned to use word processors and email programs before entering this student teaching program.

What was the least useful thing that you learned?

Here are the responses that were given by at least two students in the surveys:

1994-95 YLP group (41 responses)

7 ERIC [students were introduced to the ERIC gopher and web sites]

5 Listservs/PRESTO [students were required to join the PRESTO listserv list]

4 Spreadsheets

3 Databases

3 Gopher

3 No time to use what was presented

2 Level was too basic

1995-96 YLP group (47 responses)

4 "Email" (already knew how to use email)

4 "lectures" or "large groups"

2 "word processing" (already knew how to use word processors)

The most striking different between the two years is the much smaller number of responses for the 1995-96 group. There were 19 blank responses and four explicit non-negative responses ("all good things", "nothing", "n/a" and "nothing was useless"). So almost half (49%) of the responding students in 1995-96 did not respond to this question with a negative comment. In contrast, for the 1994-95 group, there were about a third (32%) non-negative responses (13 blank and two "Don't know").

The 1994-95 group did not like two specific elements of the technology curriculum, a guest lecture on ERIC (which had some technical difficulties), and the requirement that they join PRESTO, an electronic mailing list for preservice education students (they were overwhelmed by the numerous messages to PRESTO).

Specific responses for the 1995-96 group focused on two issues: covering topics that the students already knew and the dislike for the whole group lecture format.

What suggestions would you make for changes?

Here are the responses that were given by at least two students in the surveys:

1994-95 YLP group (41 responses)

7 More connection to actual K-12 uses

7 form small ability-level groups

7 more hands-on learning

6 the instruction was too simple

3 the instruction was too complex

2 teach technology earlier in the program/previous year

2 teach technology earlier in the week

2 make the technology component optional

2 introduce CD-ROM and other educational applications

1995-96 YLP group (47 responses)

7 more hands on

6 more relevant to classroom use

5 shorter or less often technology sessions

4 ability group the class or allow choice of attending technology sessions

3 more structured technology sessions

Unlike the other two questions, there is a consistent pattern of responses for both years to this question. Students wanted more explicit connections made between technology and its use in actual K-12 settings, and they wanted more "hands-on" experience during their learning. It is also clear that there has been quite a range of technological expertise, some several thought the technology strand was too simple and several thought it was too advanced. The suggestion of small ability-level groups came out in both years.

During the Spring of 1996, the technology component for the YLP 1995-96 group was modified to provide several simultaneous small groups that students could join, each of which was held in a computer lab so that students could have hands-on experience. The final survey to be administered in June 1996 will indicate the impact that this change has had, but informal evaluation points toward a positive response from the students. However, this multiple small-group, hands-on instruction required much more in terms of resources - multiple instructors and aides, multiple preparations. It will take further study to determine whether the positive impact offsets the increased costs of this model.

Student interview and e-mail message data -- Year One

To understand student teachers' use of e-mail in greater detail we conducted a pilot study of eleven students preparing to teach secondary school English (Thomas, Clift, & Sugimoto, 1996a). Three sources provided data: a) all messages sent and received that the participants agreed to share with researchers; b) interviews with all participants conducted at the end of the semester; and c) responses to a survey distributed to all student participants. The participants were told beforehand that their messages would be read only by the researchers and that they had the right to delete the messages which they did not want to share.

Analysis of the e-mail messages indicated that while telecommunication served as a convenient medium for meeting task demands, it also served as a filter of information. If the subject line indicated that a particular message was not immediately relevant to either personal or instrumental concerns, it was often unread. Seldom was reading e-mail seen as an important professional exchange of information, but writing e-mail (a program requirement) was seen as an aid to reflection by some of the student teachers. This was corroborated by the interview data.

When the student teachers experienced extreme stress, however, e-mail only served as a quick way to send a "help" message. Telephone calls and face-to-face communication were identified as more personal and often more helpful than e-mail. For these eleven students, the electronic medium served as an impersonal, but efficient way of accomplishing work related tasks. Telecommunication was perceived to be a cool, impersonal medium. We concluded that if teacher education is dependent on ongoing interaction, e-mail can partially support student teaching, but it cannot supplant it.

Student Interview Data -- Year Two

In Year Two we developed a more complex interview protocol to increase our understanding of communication choice during student teaching. The first set of questions addressed the participants' biographies, specifics about the courses they were taking, responsibilities during student teaching and current and prior experience with computer technology. The second set focused on a typical teaching day, in that each student teacher described their interactions with people working at their site for student teaching and with people working at the university. We asked them to focus on the people with whom they communicated about their teaching and where this communication took place. The final set of interview questions addressed each student teacher's perception of communication media and the role each medium played in their teaching and communications about their teaching. We interviewed prospective secondary teachers from the content areas of English, mathematics, and science as well as prospective elementary teachers.

All interviews were transcribed and categorized under each specific interview question. For the purpose of this paper we focused on the third section of the interview protocol, the section related to media choice. We developed a communication choice profile in relation to purpose of choice for each student and then worked as a team to identify themes that crossed individuals. We then began to study unique instances that provided insight into how some students did not fit the dominant pattern. We used this discrepant analysis to reconceptualize our categories and themes.

Secondary student teachers in English, mathematics, and science. The secondary students we interviewed in Year Two emphasized the importance of face-to-face communication with people who served as resources for lesson planning and implementation. Such interactions included seminars and team meetings, as well as conversations with supervisors, cooperating teachers, and other student teachers. The telephone also served as a resource to connect students to important persons who could provide professional input. We were particularly interested in noting that student teachers' parents were mentioned as professional as well as personal resources. As in Year One, e-mail served as a medium for connecting students back to the campus and to one another, but was less personal.

We founds some differences across content areas, in that student preparing to teach English only used e-mail to help with logistical arrangements with their methods instructor, not to discuss ideas about instructional content or pedagogy. Neither did they avail themselves of resources such as the World Wide Web. The science student teachers reported more use of Internet resources than did the English student teachers, but the greatest use of telecommunication for gathering professional resources was reported by the mathematics student teachers. Two reported using e-mail to send attachments of lesson ideas to other students; something not mentioned in the other two groups. One reported being on Prodigy and getting "tons of suggestions and answers to problems"; another received information from methods instructor on geoboards and communicated with her brother on another campus about mathematical proofs and rounding. The two consistent themes across all of the secondary students was that e-mail saved time and that they saw little use of electronic communications or the Internet in their field experiences.

Elementary student teachers. Unlike their secondary counterparts, the elementary student teachers reported using electronic communications for social interactions as well as for professional exchanges. They also reported numerous interactions through the telephone and through face to face communication that we classified as support seeking. Parents and friends were contacted by telephone and, whenever possible, were visited in person. Like their secondary counterparts, the elementary student teachers reported that electronic mail served as way of staying connected to people on the university campus, but they also noted that e-mail enabled them to discuss sensitive issues such as racism in a safer environment that a face-to-face environment afforded.

The elementary student teachers did not report using Internet resources to plan and implement lessons or to access materials. They did report being aware of such resources. Few reported using Internet activities with their students. Interestingly, several students reported that their teachers were beginning to incorporate Internet activities into their work and one young man surfaced as someone who built on his cooperating teacher's use of the Internet to plan a school-wide participation in the "TeleOlympics," in which students compete in selected track and field events with counterparts all over the world. Times and distances are recorded at a given school site and are sent to a central location. This project provides instruction in physical education, mathematics, and social studies. From this "outlier" we began an intensive study of elementary student teachers in Year Three.

Case Study data - Year Three

One researcher on our team began collecting data using ethnographic observations, interviews, and surveys to identify elementary student teachers' interpretive and normative understandings of the technology component of their course work and field work in the context of a one-year program combining field experiences with course related experiences (Larson, 1996). Because these data were collected in the third year of the Teaching Teleapprenticeships project, Larson documents the change that has occurred in the university context from Year One, where elementary student teachers were barely exposed to telecommunications to Year Three, where numerous courses and assignments depended on telecommunications and on the Internet.

YLP student teachers had learned to interact with professors, supervisors, cooperating teachers, and teaching assistants in instructional block courses and with each other through e-mail to clarify assignments, lesson planning, discuss readings, and facilitate group projects. Student teachers developed curricular activities and lessons that explored characteristics of telecommunications. Opportunities for exchange of ideas with cooperating teachers were extended with telecommunications use. Student teachers subscribed to and accessed listservs. They appreciated connections to other student teachers in the country through these forums and were overwhelmed by the amount of messages they received and filtered on a daily basis from such listservs.

Although e-mail was important to them, student teachers did not view telecommunications as a replacement for more preferable face-to-face communication with peers, cooperating teachers, supervisors, and methods course instructors. They viewed e-mail as another form of communication -- not to displace personal interaction but chosen so as not to compromise the intimacy which comes from face to face human dialogue. Student teachers still found e-mail preferable at times when it was, for example, inconvenient or impractical to contact others by telephone or in person. During crises, student teachers still wanted face-to-face communication, not e-mail.

Students in this study were also beginning to set expectations about technology instruction for their university professors in that they wanted the professors to model grade level appropriate instruction for content area applications and they wanted to know more about how to use their knowledge in schools which had not caught up with the university in terms of Internet access. Student teachers talked about how difficulties in connecting to the network inhibited their use of the computer for Internet exploration and e-mail use. They conveyed frustrations in the amount of time devoted to failed attempts and described an eventual "shutting down". When student teachers moved across three practicum places -- in different classrooms and sometimes in different schools during the YLP -- and moved from high technology environments to low technology environments, they quit using technology for instructional purposes and gave up trying to use technology. Students described these disparate environments as causing high levels of frustration, and felt they were prevented from using technology fluently throughout the academic year. This fragmentation was a tremendous barrier for some student teachers.

Larson's data also document that most of the elementary student teachers used technology as a tool and appeared to do so unquestioningly. Two student proved to be an exception. As a part of the larger study she conduced repeated, in depth interviews with two students, Syrie and Katia. Both talked about a culture of technology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as strongly influencing their inclinations to become competent in using technology as future teachers. This culture, according to them, pervaded the UIUC curriculum, not just the teacher education curriculum. In these in-depth interviews, Katia and Syrie spoke more thoughtfully and critically about technology than did student teachers in general.

In response to a question about what sensibilities teachers need to have in order to be responsible technology users in their classrooms, Syrie expressed concern around the value of face-to-face interaction between a teacher and a student.

It may depend on the instructor's views on how much computers can and should be used in the classroom. I think there still needs to be the personal contact on a high level. I think the mistake some teachers make is just turning the education over to the computers. It's kind of, "sit down in front of the computer with this program and learn this". This is something that student teachers need to learn is to balance the approach. Kids, no matter how important computers become in our society, will always need that personal aspect. They need reassurance and instruction from their teacher, an adult figure ...

Katia shared a concern she had about how people project identities in "electronic conversations" and spoke about technology's influence on her thinking about the meaning of knowledge in an elementary classroom.

E-mail is a dangerous thing in a way. Because it allows you to be someone you're not. And, it depends on the kind of person you are. If you're a verbal person in writing rather than in speaking, I think it can be dangerous, because you can just use this persona. I see that so much with my friends. They try to write these things to look so cool ... so mysterious and dark. And you can think through what you want to say. You can erase something and not send it. You can be selective. And you can be more open because you're not writing to anything. It's not a "real" person. You're not judging their reactions. And they have time to digest the thought. People need to learn that e-mail is not the same thing as having a conversation.

The realm of knowledge is no longer confined to books ... and to what you can get your hands on. Rather, it is something much larger. And probably limitless in terms of its scope. Children will have a much larger understanding of this ... so it's necessary for teachers to keep up on it. The multimedia approach to gaining access to ... the World Wide Web or Mosaic ... is one way to keep children motivated and excited about learning.

Issues concerning the relationship of technology in schools to the larger society were elaborated, in part, because Larson probed them to expand on their original observations of relations between technology, teacher education, and the larger society. What her interviews have done for our research team, however, is highlight the importance of developing a sufficiently complex research model that permits us to confront the social and ethical dimensions of relations among technology and teacher education, as well as the logistical, psychological, and sociological dimensions.

One model for guiding future research

When we began the research associated with the Teaching Teleapprenticeships project we had adopted an implicit model that led us to inquire into how prospective teachers used telecommunications in the process of learning to teach. We felt that information about prospective teachers was important, as was information about their abilities and their decisions leading to any use (or lack of use) of the telecommunications. This led us to posit a rather simplistic linear relationship among prospective teachers and use of telecommunications technology. Our research questions focused around issues of what kinds of students use telecommunications during coursework prior to student teaching and during student teaching for what kinds of purposes? Our data led us to conclude that, for students at the University of Illinois, student characteristics were less important (and less interesting) in thinking about network use than the purposes students perceived as lending themselves to the use of the Internet.

Figure 1. A simple model of research on prospective teachers' use of telecommunications.

Purposes, we learned, were less often self-motivated discoveries of how telecommunications were appropriate for teaching or for learning and more often responses to instructors' recommendations for using telecommunications media. The data we collected led us to question our simple model because we learned that the university task demands had a major impact on prospective teachers' use of e-mail, if not other forms of telecommunication. We also learned that the status/power imbalance between instructors and students vs. the more equal status among students led some students to perceive that messages from instructors were more important then messages between students -- even when those messages were reflections on student teaching. In other words, use of telecommunications, even when required in a course, did not automatically foster a particular student groups' ability to engage in professional reflective activity with one another. We began to see that it was important to understand the context in which these students worked, as well as their own, individual tendencies. Our model became somewhat more complex. And so did our research strategy.

Figure 2. A model of relationships between individual practice and the contexts in which prospective teachers work.

We began to examine the varied university contexts that supported students' learning -- including their learning to use technology. We found that, not only did university instructors differ in the support they provided (or the project support they tapped for their students' use), but that different groups of students evolved their own, unstated norms for what was and was not useful practice related to telecommunications.

The second model we developed to guide our research acknowledged the importance of context and, at the same time, predicted that both school and university contexts would change over time. We sought to create a more dynamic model that would capture the complexity of our data -- even as we continued to collect data.

In this model we predicted that the work setting and the prospective teachers' perceptions of that setting would affect and be affected by their individual characteristics and their preferred modes of communication, as well as the communication media available to them. We also felt that access to different communication media, the ease with which the prospective teachers could access these media, and their perceptions of how practically important these media were would affect and be affected by their individual characteristics and their preferred modes of communication, as well as the communication media available to them.

As we analyzed our data we learned that individuals were also affected by evolving norms within university classes, and within the school settings, that made a powerful impact on the students. In some classes, not using technology and telecommunications was simply not an option. In such settings, individual practice was shaped by these groups' norms, which seemed to be constructed by students and instructors. In other classes, wherein use of technology or telecommunications was not emphasized, use of technology varied more from individual to individual.

We also realized, as we pilot tested our revised interview protocol, that students' options for communicating with others, including their cooperating teachers and others in the field, were tapped for differing purposes. That is, that students' availed themselves of numerous forms of communication while learning about teaching. Internet-based communication was only one such option. We also learned that as students began to spend more and more time in field settings, that use of technology and telecommunications was strongly affected by use of technology and telecommunications in the field -- even though access was not an issue for the students because they all had their own PowerBooks, training in telecommunications, and support for using telecommunications.

At this point we stepped back from our immersion in the data and tried to develop a third model that acknowledged the following points we had inferred from our analysis:

1. Individual practice is shaped by the culture/setting in which the individual works.

2. Different settings encourage different practices in the same individual.

4. Purpose for communication also impacts individual practice.

3. Prospective teachers have numerous communications options available as resources for learning to teach. Different options are tapped based on purpose for communication and on the ease with which they can be accessed.

4. Ease of access depends, in part, on individual perceptions of such ease.

5. Purpose and task demands may override individual characteristics when using technology and telecommunications in learning to teach. The differential power and status relations between instructors and prospective teachers may have a strong effect on perceptions of both task demands and purposes.

6. The university and school settings differ greatly with regard to the ability to access technology and, therefore, to the communications options available to prospective teachers.

7. The university and school settings differ greatly with regard to the group norms that encourage technology use -- but there are also wide variations within these settings.

8. Students can handle the contrast between the two contexts, but do not appreciate those contrasts.

9. Students are aware that telecommunications technology implies social as well as pedagogical changes.

This following model, which is guiding our current thinking, reflects points one through seven above. The italicized features within both contexts and within individual practice are features that our data have led us to believe are important for thinking about how telecommunications technology interacts with other forms of communication as one is learning to teach. We would not argue that those features in plain text are unimportant, we just note that our data do not support them as being of primary importance. In the next section of this paper we briefly discuss points one through seven as they impact research, practice, or policy.

Figure 3. A model for research on the relations among individual practice and school and university contexts.

Interactions between setting and practice. In our project, the university setting exerted a powerful force on many of the prospective teachers by infusing telecommunications use and technology use throughout the curriculum -- and by making technology available on and off the campus. Thus, for these prospective teachers, issues of access and available communication forms were not as important as they would be for students who are working in university contexts that are not technology rich. We do not argue that our data are illustrative of all, or even most, teacher preparation institutions. We do argue that our findings can inform both research and practice as technology becomes more and more important in education and in teacher education.

The teacher education programs at the University of Illinois promote multiple field placements, thus we were able to follow students as they moved from the campus to field setting #1, to field setting #2, etc. We found that individual practice varied as a function of placement, partially because of the group norms operating in the field settings and partially because of access to technology other than the PowerBooks. Many texts advocate that prospective teachers should serve as change agents within the schools in which they are placed, even though much of the research on student teaching emphasizes the low power status of prospective teachers and the degree to which they conform to their cooperating teachers' pedagogical styles (?). This is argued for many instructional innovations, including technology use (?) While our work confirms the findings of the social pressures exerted by the field settings, we hasten to note that the university can support continued use of technology by providing student teachers with a purpose for its use -- as long as the university is also willing to make technology available when the school context cannot.

We also noted that when prospective teachers entered field settings which were interested in technology use, but not necessarily experienced, the student teachers served as teachers of teachers. Learning to teach became more reciprocal as experienced teachers learned from their student teachers. This leads us to wonder about the potential of technology use to encourage communities of learners in which issues of status and power are downplayed more than they are when technology use is not an issue. It also leads us to wonder if prospective teachers can become partial change agents when invited and encouraged to do so by experienced teachers in school settings.

Factors affecting practice in technology use. In contrast to other research, we did not find that gender, socioeconomic status, or biography were important in understanding use of technology. This may be an artifact of our population or of our research design. We acknowledge this, while at the same time we find that our data support the features of purpose and task demands as powerful forces that not only encourage technology use, but actively discourage its absence. If students perceive that technology will help the accomplish goals they wish to (or are required to) accomplish, they will use this technology. This has led us to conclude that coursework in technology and telecommunication is not nearly as important as embedding technology and telecommunication use throughout the university curriculum -- in and out of education courses. Indeed, this finding has formed the basis for the redesign of our teacher education programs for elementary and secondary students.

We have learned that by supporting instructors' use of technology and by also supporting cooperating teachers use of technology through workshops, easily accessible consultants, and sharing of information we have influenced not only prospective teachers' use of telecommunications, but also that of their teacher educators. We have also learned that technology has limitations as a resource for learning to teach.

Communication choice. Learning to teach, and particularly student teaching, is an emotional experience for prospective teachers and for many of their teacher educators. Our students reported that sometimes the requirement to use telecommunications was more frustrating than helpful, but sometimes it was a tremendous asset. When communicating with people who were hard to reach in person, or by telephone, technology was perceived as helpful. There are alternatives to Internet, some are more familiar and easy to use than others, and these should not be ignored as we investigate the potential of telecommunication on learning to teach.

Based on our analysis we have concluded that telecommunication technology is particularly helpful when on does not need or want sustained dialogue. Examples are when one needs to exchange information or when one is discussing a difficult topic and wants time to think before providing input. But when sustained dialogue is important, particularly in times of emotional stress, telecommunication is not valued because of possible delays between the time a message is sent and a reply is received and because prospective teachers want the visual reassurance that face to face communication can provide.

In addition, we have found that some individuals are using technology as a distancing mechanism when they do not wish to be overburdened with other's expressed thoughts or feelings. Busy students or busy professors can use e-mail as a way of avoiding communication with one another, just as they can use it as a means of increasing communication with one another. the same holds for communications with field-based teacher educators. It is much easier to avoid an electronic message than it is to avoid a telephone call or someone's presence in your office or classroom.


In the beginning of this paper we discussed three groups of researchers who are interested in studying technology and teacher education. We then described the evolution of our research and our growing awareness that learning about or from technology is directly related to the uses and purposes for which technology is employed, and that both have an impact on and are impacted by social relations among participants. We would hope that continued investigations into the relations between technology and teacher education would adopt a complex view that would incorporate practical, pedagogical, and social concerns.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. RED-9253423. The Government has certain rights in this material. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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